Tag Archives: child-rearing

Can Christian Parents Still Be Parents?

 These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

These words, taken from the Old Testament and the New Testament, are only a couple of the many references in the Bible to the responsibilities of parents and children in a family. The biblical image of a family establishes a standard for families that is no more attainable than righteousness can be earned by works of the law. Nevertheless, the image of family that God sets before his people in the Bible is the standard Christian parents try to achieve. Christian parents believe that they have the obligation to teach their children what is right and what is wrong, both in word and deed. They believe that children have an obligation to love, respect and obey their parents. Christian parents work diligently to help their children mature during the many years it takes to become adults, and they look forward to the day when their children will stand on their own two feet as adults with responsibilities for their own families.

The sense of obligation to teach and protect children until they reach adulthood means that Christian parents expect to tell their children what to do and they expect their children to do what they are told until the children are adults. The culture of the USA assaults that principle in many different ways. Most recently, the right of a parent to have authority over a child’s behavior has been removed by a judicial act that makes “morning after” contraceptives available over the counter to females of any age without a prescription. The federal government has decreed that a parent not only does not need to know if a child receives such a drug; the federal government assumes that the child can understand and maturely accept the risks associated with the ingestion of the drug. In fact, the federal government believes that a child can understand and accept and self-manage sexual behavior at a level of maturity that will act on the knowledge that this medicine is not recommended for daily use.

Parents who hold the view that a child is not likely mature enough for adult responsibilities until around 18 years of age find this government policy difficult to accept. Christian parents don’t want to hold their children back from adulthood; they want their children to be reared in such a way that the children are ready for their adult responsibilities when the time comes for them to accept them. Christian parents know that rearing a child to understand the responsibilities that accompany sexual activity include teaching about the meaning of sexuality, the risks of promiscuity, the meaning of life, the sanctity of life, and especially, the sanctity of the sexual union between a man and a woman. It is hard enough to teach these things in the normal confusion of daily life. The task of teaching the Christian view of sexual morality becomes exponentially more difficult when children are immersed in media that say that a child has a right to engage in sex whenever it appeals to him or her, and that having engaged in sex, the female child who doesn’t want to get pregnant as a consequence of sex has the maturity and the right to obtain and use a “morning after” contraceptive as she wishes.

This situation is part of the ongoing conflict between the Christian worldview and the secular worldview.

The secular worldview says:

  •  Sex is natural, and because it is natural, it is good. 
  • Human beings experience sex on many levels and in many ways. Children should be taught all about sex in order not to fear it or misuse it. (One wonders how a child, or anyone, could misuse sex if anything goes, but that is a different issue.)
  • Sex is so desirable that people cannot control their need for it. Children should not be taught to control their desires, but only to handle the consequences. 
  • STD is a possible unwanted consequence of sexual activity. Children should be taught how to prevent it and how to treat it if they forget to prevent it. 
  • Pregnancy is a possible unwanted consequence of sexual activity. Children should be taught how to prevent it and how to treat it if they forget to prevent it.

The Christian worldview says:

  • Sex is God’s gift to humans. It is natural and it is good. 
  • The gift of sexuality has a purpose in God’s plan for humans. Sex is granted for both joy and procreation with the boundaries of a committed relationship between a man and a woman. 
  • Promiscuous sex is a perversion of God’s gift, whether between same or opposite sexes. 
  • The power of sexual desire is a power for good when used under discipline. It is a power for evil and destruction when not controlled. 
  • Abstinence outside marriage is the only sure way to prevent STD, prevent pregnancy, and protect the gift of sex for its fulfillment in the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. 
  • A fertilized egg, which quickly becomes an embryo, is the beginning of human life, which is so precious in God’s sight that he condemns murder. Human-ordered destruction of an embryo is the same thing as murder – the willful human assumption of power over life and death that belongs only to God. 
  • Unplanned and unwanted pregnancy does not justify murder. There are ways to deal with the pregnancy that honor God’s gift of life and God’s authority over all human life.

Faced with the secular view of life and family, Christian parents have a serious challenge. Whining won’t help. Prayer will. A Christian who believes that God is actually sovereign over life and death and all things through the end of time must believe that God will bless his commitment to rear children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord despite all the obstacles the world throws in his path. The Christians living in the Roman Empire faced both cultural restriction and official persecution. Christ’s church survived. Through two thousand years of rejection and resistance by Satan through people motivated by Satan, the church survived. Parents who want their children to grow up in the faith must strengthen their own faith and become more deeply committed to living their faith. Words of faith must be modeled by lives of faith. That is how children will learn to accept the authority of their parents and to live their own faithful testimonies.

The science so revered by secular thinkers has uncovered a truth that might comfort Christian parents: No matter how it looks, children actually listen to their parents more intently than to any other voice in their lives. This means that Christian parents who simply do what their faith leads them to do will have the single most powerful influence in their children’s lives. No matter how daunting it looks, God’s design built into human beings poises each little baby to look for and obey his or her parents.

The free availability of “morning after” medications for girls of all ages is an atrocity. It is one more nail in the coffin of a moral culture. It is one more fiery dart launched against the legal rights of parents to rear their children in their own moral and spiritual code. (This is, by the way, a right protected by the Ninth Amendment of the US Constitution, but as some have said, we appear to be living in a post-constitutional age.) Despite the appearance that evil is winning the culture wars, Christian parents need not despair. Be strong in the faith. Be obedient to Christ. Speak your faith, teach your faith, and pray your faith. Your children, believe it or not, are watching.

The State Wants all the Children

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:1-3

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about an issue Moses had thoroughly covered right before he died – God’s plan for the upbringing of children. God’s plan includes a father and mother who produce children and rear those children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.” God’s plans for families put heavy responsibilities on the parents. Children are admonished to listen to their parents and to obey them, because the parents will be held accountable by God for teaching their children to know God and to live according to God’s teachings. Moses, Paul, and most parents actually believe that children belong to their parents, and that their parents have the final authority over those children. The laws at every government level in the USA have upheld this model of family.

Two weeks ago there was a considerable uproar when a commentator on television promoted the notion that children belong to the community, not to their parents. When something like this is expressed in actual words, it sounds extraordinarily outrageous, but the fact is that the same thing is being said in many different ways throughout the culture.

For example, the President of the United States of America recently began to advocate mandatory kindergarten for four-year-olds. Four-year-olds. Many parents struggle when it is time to let a five-year-old go to school, wanting to be sure that each child is actually mature enough to benefit from school and enjoy it. Any number of parents have dug in their feet and refused to send a child to school before they thought the child was ready, and many is the parent who, on high school graduation day rejoices that they refused to rush the child. If the President gets his way, however, it may be very difficult to keep a child at home through his fourth year, let alone his fifth. What is the rush? Obviously, the rush is to get the child into a state-controlled environment early in life. Parents who know how teachable a four-year-old is may very well want to do all the teaching themselves rather than make their child available to be taught a secular morality or other ideas in conflict with their own family values.

Further, it can no longer be assumed that if the subject of sex is going to come up at school, the parents will be notified. Recently, a school in the state of New York scheduled a day of anti-bullying training without any notice to parents that the topics covered would include homosexuality. Confronted by angry parents after the fact, the school explained that homosexuals had endured bullying, and the session was intended to teach children not to do that. Few parents would object to a teacher saying, “Please be kind and respectful of everybody.” Many parents could and did object to a teacher asking girls to pretend they were on a lesbian date. Almost every parent would object to discovering that girls were told to ask each other for a lesbian kiss. Many more parents would object to learning that older girls also gave presentations encouraging the girls in the school to experiment with sex and to enjoy it and not to feel embarrassed about it.

The school took the stance that because the session was about bullying, not sex education, it had no obligation to tell parents about the lesson plan. It is very obviously a deliberate strategy to obtain an outcome that the state wanted. By pretending they had no obligation to tell parents what was coming, they deprived the parents of any opportunity to keep their children from being exposed to this behavior.

Unfortunately, parents must simply opt out of public school altogether in order to retain their control over the kind of teaching the Bible says they are to give their children. The Bible says, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Encouraging girls to pretend they are on a lesbian date is not included in the “instruction of the Lord.” The schools, read that “the state,” have many ways to undercut what parents teach their children or even how much time parents have to teach anything.

Think about this. Schools are now trying to feed children all their meals. There are schools that actually offer three meals a day, and the meals are available not just to children who might not get food at home. The meals are offered to all, and some parents are falling for it. The child leaves home in time to eat breakfast at school and never comes home again until after eating a third meal. The child need never sit down at the table with the parents to eat a meal. Well, maybe on weekends. In summer there is the Summer Food Service Program. All these programs are advised in government guides to provide both nutrition education and physical education as part of these programs. So your children can learn and will learn to eat what the government wants them to eat and to exercise the way the government wants them to exercise.

Then there is history. Children are taught a version of American history that might shock parents and grandparents. The Pilgrims were not seeking religious liberty. The Founding Fathers had no religious principles, being driven to separate from England by capitalist greed and slave-holding bigotry. Schoolhildren are not taught to honor and respect founders of the USA or the Constitution they wrote. They are taught that the USA has prospered on the backs of poor people around the world rather than as a result of personal liberty, free enterprise, and limited government. God might not have an agenda that parents should control the teaching of history, but he does have an agenda for the truth. He would object to the complete rewriting of history to fit a Marxist worldview.

It is time to ask the question again. If you are a parent, to whom do your children belong? Who is responsible for their character development, their general deportment, their personal integrity, and their outlook on fundamental moral values? Have you handed off that responsibility to the public schools? Or do you still think it is your job to teach your children how to be honorable, mature adults? How will you answer God on the day when he asks you about deeds done in the flesh with regard to the upbringing of your children? What will God say if you respond, “That’s the school’s job.”

Can Christians Impact Cultural Change?

The culture of the USA is a toxic stew of issues that challenge Christian values. Some of the issues challenge the values of other religious groups as well. Without any intent to diminish the concerns of other groups, this blog focuses on the concerns of Christians. The purpose of this blog is to inform Christians about the issues that challenge Christian faith and to inspire Christians to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their responses. It is a call to Christians in the USA to recognize their civic duty as voters to be informed of the issues that make our country more free or less free, especially relevant to religious liberty, It is a warning to Christians in the USA of the parallels between social and political developments in the US and similar developments which lead to cultural restriction and religious persecution in other countries. It is an exploration of the fine line between the legitimate expression of the views of a citizen with Christian moral views and the illegitimate attempt of a citizen to assert a “right” to win the discussion simply because his views are Christian. Here you will find discussions of issues on which Christians are as divided as the rest of the country. This blog will advocate a viewpoint believed to be in accord with Scripture, but you will not find any advocacy for abrasive, abusive, or aggressive language in the discussion of this viewpoint.

It is very challenging to live by Christian values in a culture that increasing devalues any idea associated with Christian teaching. It is very difficult to discuss issues with other citizens when those citizens attempt to turn the conversation from a discussion of ideas to an assault on every opponent as a selfish, bigoted, brain-dead throwback to prehistoric times. Laws are actually being written that Christians may not be able to obey. If cultural pressure produces legislation in keeping with all the social changes, it may soon be very difficult to live by Christian teaching in the USA.

US Christians who feel threatened by such developments can learn something by looking at what Chinese Christians are doing. Chinese Christians have lived with severe cultural and governmental restrictions since 1949. In 2013, small changes are encouraging Christians in China. There is some light on the horizon both culturally and legally. The government is becoming somewhat less aggressive against Christians. The culture is becoming somewhat more open to the expression of Christian faith. Open Doors International is suggesting to Chinese Christians that they begin to take advantage of tiny openings where they may be able to impact culture and government. The pressures that seem to be slightly subsiding in China are actually increasing for US Christians, and this situation represents a shrinking window of opportunity to influence government and culture, but the same strategies recommended for China should have value in the US. In fact, these strategies have always been part of the way Christians affect culture and government around them.

The key recommendation to Chinese Christians is “to impact their society by embedding Christian values through contextualization and community engagement.” US Christians might argue that Christian values are already embedded in the society, and that Christian values are dominant in most communities. The nation was founded by people who held Christian values, a fact expressed in the Founding documents repeatedly. However, due to major changes in the way the history is taught in schools, many children graduate from public education without a firm grasp of those facts. Due to massive changes in both culture and government during the past fifty years, the curriculum, the standards, the employment policies and the administrative regulations for education are all established at state or federal levels, far from the communities where the schools operate. Media, social and political activist organizations, and even government promote definitions of Constitutional terms and principles that are at odds with the historical interpretations, resulting in growing restrictions on Christian faith expression. Christians must be realistic about the fact that there are and will continue to be changes in the culture and the government. It is not easy for one Christian or even all the Christians in a small community to make an impact in Washington DC.

Christians may need to think creatively about ways to embed Christian values in the society. Probably the first idea that comes to mind is to be sure they rear their children according to Christian values. Unfortunately, there is actually a movement under way to make that plan difficult. Just last week it was suggested that children do not belong to their parents and that the “collective” should take more authority in the way children are brought up. Further, the President of the United States wants children to start school at the age of four, an age when children are extremely malleable. God created children to want to learn, and they most naturally learn from the people with whom they spend their time. In God’s plan, the influential people in a small child’s life would be his parents. Moses warned the Israelites about the importance of teaching the faith to children when he said,    

These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Making government kindergarten the major influence in the lives of four-year-olds would vastly reduce the ability of parents to shape the values and perceptions of their children according to Christian teaching.

The most important statement in the Open Doors suggestions for Chinese Christians is the most important thing every Christian needs to remember: “Christians need to be encouraged to live out biblical values and show people what it looks like to be followers of Christ.” This is something every Christian ought to write on his heart. In fact, it is so important that a failure to do it is probably at the root of many social and political evils in the US today. Timothy Dalrymple recently wrote, As our nation struggles to clarify the status of same-sex relationships, it’s all too easy to ignore the fact that the foundation of America’s social, economic and military success has been our society’s broad, voluntary commitment to Judeo-Christian morality.” He develops a strong case for the failure of Christians to live by their own values as a major enabler of the cultural momentum to revise the whole concept of marriage and family, a change of cosmic proportions and apocalyptic portent for human society.

If the future depended on human ability to live like Christ, all hope would be lost. Fortunately, Christians do not believe that the future of the human race is dependent on human perfectibility, as secular thinkers do. The book of Revelation, terrifying images notwithstanding, is actually filled with inspiration and hope for the future. It isn’t a book of pep talks: Hang in there. Never give up. Just do it. Instead, the author of Revelation warns that terrible cataclysms will be the expression of the ultimate war between good and evil in time and space. Hope for the future, however, resides in God’s complete victory over Satan through Christ’s death on the cross. Because Satan himself has already been defeated in the realm of eternity and infinity, the horrific clashes between good and evil in time and space are simply the dying gasps of a defeated enemy. The apparent reality of Satan’s power is transcended by the real reality of Christ’s power through his death and resurrection. Revelation reminds us not to limit our understanding to the measure of our senses.

How does this truth shape our interaction with our culture? Why should we suffer if it is all up to God? The answer is that our battles are important. Our suffering matters in the eternal scheme of things. That is why we go ahead and stand up to socialist activism that wants to snatch children away from their parents, that wants to redefine marriage and family in self-indulgent terms, that demands that we lock God and all references to him inside buildings. God’s purpose for time and eternity requires that we live so close to Christ that he is our only treasure, so that we testify with Paul,

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:8-10

Whose Children Are They?

In a recent “Lean Forward” spot on MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry said: 

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a kind of a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s then we start making better investments. 

This announcement is troubling in many ways. Any parent who actually believes that children belong to their parents will find it objectionable. Christian parents, beyond their own natural understanding of the meaning of parenthood, accept some biblical mandates that stand in opposition to this view. Any person who believes in the traditional values of marriage, family, and children will be appalled at the very idea that children belong to the community, because most of them have had a lot of “everybody else is doing it” moments in which they firmly taught that “our family does not do it.”

Above all of these issues, anyone who has studied the USSR or any of the rhetoric of the Communist Party will recognize the way the Party separated children from their parents as a state policy in countries the Party controlled. Children of the Communist era grew up knowing that it was their duty to spy on their parents and tell on their parents for saying or doing things against the god-state each soviet republic had become. There are people who have asked me over the past five years, “Where did you get the idea that Barack Obama is a socialist?” My answer has always been, “I simply see what he stands for.” After this statement entered the public record, it became very clear that Melissa Harris-Perry is also a socialist. It is not name-calling to apply that label to a person who has spoken out consistently in support of socialist principles. It is simply recognition of her position politically and socially, no more pejorative than recognizing an oak leaf and acorns as evidence that a tree is an oak tree.

Melissa Harris-Perry has a history of supporting values destructive to families and supportive of state policy controlling family life. A Google search on her name will display evidence that she felt threatened in 2012 by anti-abortion activism. She supports the idea that a union of two homosexuals is a marriage. She thinks free contraception is a cultural imperative. She has a right to her opinions as an American citizen, but citizens with quite different opinions need to know where she stands in order to respond appropriately. It is important to know her general stance on family issues in order to assess the seriousness of this statement. The evidence reveals that this is a very serious statement.

Ms. Harris-Perry is not alone in her perceptions about the education of children. Public voices have already jumped to her side to say that if the community had owned the children in Sandy Hook, the shooter would never have become a shooter. There being absolutely no evidence to justify such a point of view does not seem to be important to people who want a simplistic solution to a complicated problem.

Christian parents need to be alert now that this statement has been widely broadcast. Voices in the media make it appear that her viewpoint is not unique. In fact, Christian parents who were unaware until now that some people believe this idea may be late in discovering that such ideas are being promulgated elsewhere. In schools. In school boards. In city councils. In state legislatures. In Congress. If someone promotes this idea in a nationally-broadcast statement, then it is likely to be boiling under the surface all through the culture.

Christian parents no doubt already feel targeted. Many Christian parents homeschool their children precisely in order to avoid letting the “community” teach their children values that the parents reject. Now they must be extremely vigilant to prevent social activists from creating legislation or regulations that will interfere with their ability to homeschool their children. There have been a number of attempts to prevent homeschooling parents from controlling their own curriculum, and this statement will almost certainly propel additional initiatives in that direction.

Do not think that you can sleep through this challenge. In Kazakhstan and Tajikistan today there are laws that forbid parents to take their children to worship services or to teach them to study the Bible. Such laws may sound outrageous and unthinkable in the US. Well, how outrageous is it to hear a television personality say that your children do not belong to you?

What do you see in your community? What do you see in your local schools? If you homeschool, what public pressure is being brought to bear on your right to educate your own children? What signs do you see that the culture of the US is pressuring the government of the US to take your children away from your control?